Samurai and Other Stories

Review: Samurai and Other Stories, William Meikle, 2018.

Samurai and Other Stories
Cover by Ben Baldwin

If you’re curious about the William Meikle’s work and don’t mind short fiction, this is a proper introduction to it. You’ll find him operating in his usual modes and some new ones I hadn’t seen before.

Meikle the Cthulhu Mythos writer has a couple of works that are some of the best in the book.

The Havenhome” was probably the first Meikle I read when it appeared in High Seas Cthulhu, and it was good enough for me to remember his name. On re-reading it, I was struck by how there are no explicit references to the Mythos in it. In the year 1605, the Havenhome travels to the New World to find a European settlement wiped out, the bodies mysteriously frozen. Staying for the night, they realize something malevolent is at work and not just freak weather. I suppose you could see this as a takeoff on Clark Ashton Smith’s “The Coming of the White Worm” or August Derleth’s Ithaqua. Meikle often ends his stories with violent action which sometimes breaks up the mood he’s established, but here he definitely gets the balance right.

I’d also read “Inquisitor” before in Historical Lovecraft put out by Innsmouth Free Press. In it, a Dominican inquisitor interrogates a shoggoth brought back by Spanish sailors in 1535. But he isn’t prepared for the answers he gets. I was happy to revisit this one which I also remembered favorably from before. Continue reading “Samurai and Other Stories”

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A Night in the Lonesome October

Well, I’ve reviewed other Zelazny titles, so I’ll take a look at this one. But I was not as fond of this book as many are. (I actually had to scrounge for my paperback copy a few years ago and paid a relatively high price for it.)

Low Res Scan: A Night in the Lonesome October, Roger Zelazny, 1993.night in the lonesome october

Yes, we have a book nicely segmented into 31 chapters so you can read it, as so many people do, a chapter a day in October.

Yes, it’s narrated by a dog. Not just any dog — Jack the Ripper’s dog.

Yes, Frankenstein and his walking lab project and Dracula show up. Larry Talbot the Wolfman does too.

There’s a witch, a Russian monk, a bit of Yog-Sothethery. You can throw in Gypsies, grave robbers, and a vicar too.

Sherlock Holmes and Watson even show up though here only known as the Great Detective and his sidekick.

Most of those characters, except Holmes and Watson, have animal familiars who often talk to each other — which I found the most amusing part of the book.

And most of the characters are jostling for position (figuratively and literally) to make the best of the magical rite on October 31st — at least the Halloweens with a full moon. There are two camps — the openers and the closers. One camp wants to open a dimensional door so the Elder Gods can come through. The others want to keep it closed. Continue reading “A Night in the Lonesome October”

South

South

South Pic

Review: South: The Endurance Expedition, Sir Ernest Shackleton, C.V.O., 1919; South With Endurance: Shackleton’s Antarctica Expedition 1914-1917, 2001.

I’ve been fascinated with Shackleton’s story since third grade. It is the classic story of survival against the odds, an expedition where everyone lived to tell. I came across some illustrated kid’s book about it and later on read Shackleton’s Valiant Voyage by Alfred Lansing. I’ve seen a few documentaries on it. Shackleton even shows up in David Hambling’s Cthulhu Mythos novel The Elder Ice.

But, in the desultory manner things get done around here, it wasn’t until a few months ago that I actually read the primary source document for the voyage – Shackleton’s own book.

The broad outline of the story is this. Continue reading “South”

Culloden!

“And tell me, will we never hear the end
Of puir bluidy Charlie at Culloden yet again?”

— Brian McNeill, “No Gods and Precious Few Heroes

Review: Culloden!, William Meikle, 2016.

Culloden
Cover by Wayne Miller

As in our history, Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Bloodking, has a rendezvous with destiny at Culloden, and much of this novel takes place in Scotland.

In some ways, this, the conclusion of the Watchers trilogy, is more leisurely than its successors. Oh there are battles and gladiatorial combats and lots of bloods and new methods of killing vampires en masse. (I would like to see the final battle at Culloden in a graphic novel or movie, so I could linger on the details Meikle doesn’t get into.)

But there’s also a lot of time spent with ale and agony, song and memories. I suppose some might view that as padding, but I liked hearing the back stories of the supporting characters including the Prince, and I also liked Meikle smuggling in a bit of his inner musician with invented ballads. I could almost hear them being sung.

Here Sean and Martin have largely come to terms with not being “men-and-only-men”. Sean’s strange amalgam of man and vampire proves handy in infiltrating the Edinburgh stronghold of the Bloodking. Martin has learned to control the wolf-like berserker side of himself. Sean is still on the trail of Mary Campbell, the Bloodking’s intended, and Martin has been sent into Scotland on a reconnaissance mission by the Duke of Cumberland to make sure Bonnie Prince Charlie is found, fixed, and destroyed. Continue reading “Culloden!”

The Battle for the Throne

Review: The Battle for the Throne, William Meikle, 2016.

watchersomnibuskindle
Cover by Wayne Miller.

In the second book of the Watchers trilogy, families are formed and families sundered, castles are besieged and castles infiltrated. Our two heroes, Martin and Sean, will doubt themselves and their new natures.

In The Coming of the King, the Bloodking, Bonnie Prince Charles, swept over Hadrian’s Wall nearly taking Milecastle, Martin and Sean’s home. Here he rampages through England with the advantage that, unlike our Bonnie Prince Charlie, his victims join his vampiric army.

Meikle cranks up the action with this book. There are many battles here, well-done, more than in the previous book. But there are quieter moments I also liked. Martin, now Thane of Milecastle after the death of his father, hears old men tell him about his father as a young man.

Except for the equivalent of jump cuts in the concluding chapter, Meikle presents Martin’s and Sean’s stories in alternating chapters. Continue reading “The Battle for the Throne”

The Collected Stories of Robert Silverberg, Vol. 8: Hot Times in Magma City, 1990-95

Review: The Collected Stories of Robert Silverberg, Volume Eight: Hot Times in Magma City, 1990-95, ed. Robert Silverberg, 2013.41deGp06PaL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

The penultimate book in Subterranean Press’s Robert Silverberg series has what you would expect from him: tales of history (alternate and straight), time travel, and urbane protagonists. This time around there’s also alien invasions and fantasies.

As always, a large part of the book’s appeal is Silverberg’s introduction and notes even if you can find all of the stories elsewhere.

Here he ruminates on the difficult birthing of some stories and how only “sentimental oldsters”, beginners, and part-timers bother to practice the art of the science fiction short story these days. The pay rates for short fiction are worse now than when he started his career.

One new motif here is the drug addict as protagonist.

Alcohol was the original drug of choice for the main character of the fantasy “It Comes and It Goes”. Playboy made him change that before publication. He’s back to being an alcoholic of the recovering variety here and keeps seeing a house come and go in his neighborhood, an alluring blonde woman in its doorway. And the males of all ages who go in it don’t come out. He develops an obsession with the house to match his old one with liquor. It doesn’t help when he sees the house in more than one town. Continue reading “The Collected Stories of Robert Silverberg, Vol. 8: Hot Times in Magma City, 1990-95”